14 Mar Mindful Walking and Running
Imagine if the practice of mindful walking could greatly improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease!
Imagine if someone who experiences shin splints could enjoy a good jog without any shin pain, by practicing mindful running!
I was intrigued reading Norman Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing as he described the progress of John Pepper, a South African long term Parkinson’s (PD) sufferer who had retrained himself to walk without the PD gait or shuffle.  PD is often defined as an “incurable, chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder.” But instead of degenerating, John Pepper had managed to reverse the major symptoms; the ones that lead to immobility. He had developed his own walking program of intense concentration.
John Pepper wrote in 2008 that he “has learned to use my conscious brain to control the movements, which are normally controlled by the sub-conscious brain.”  And if we practice something often enough, repeating the new processes, there are distinct neurological changes whereby new synapses fire off, creating new neurological pathways.
Is this mindful walking? I recommend to my clients who are living with the symptoms of stress and anxiety to practice mindful walking. Mindful walking could be:
- Hold your stomach muscles in while walking.
- Notice your gait … observe your hip flexors as you walk.
- Are you working your glutes? Your buttocks?
- Breathe into your diaphragm. (engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn restores the body to calm)
- Observe your footfall. Is there is a rhythm in your stride or are you slamming your feet down? Find your natural rhythm.
Mindful running? I was told of a young man who had experienced the discomfort of shin splints for the past 10 years. Whenever he plays football or another sport he would finish the game in pain. Yet he has discovered that by being mindful when jogging, he can cool down at the end without the old discomfort. So what is his secret? He spends a lot of time before his jog stretching his glutes and hip flexors … and when running he is mindful of what his hips and upper leg muscles are doing. If the hips are moving in a natural rhythm then he can focus on his footfall. Running can be meditative.
I’d be interested to hear what mindful techniques you are using when walking or running. Mindful walking and mindful running could be the most simple step towards improved health and healing.
And if stress and anxiety relief is on your list you might also consider hypnotherapy at Cameron Hypnotics at The Junction. Contact Brett now.
 Doidge, Norman, The Brain’s Way of Healing, Scribe Publications, Victoria, 2015, p.33.
 ibid., p36.